My blog is weird

You guys see a very different side to me in comparison to what many people in my life see. My closest friends know that I am pretty…erm…odd, but my work colleagues and casual acquaintances see “professional Jane.”

Professional Jane likes pencil skirts and blazers. She eats rye crackers and discusses politics with men in suits. She analyses exam results and collates them in the form of pie charts. She attends meetings with colleagues and has an actual clipboard. Sometimes, she ties her hair up with a pencil. Yes, professional Jane is a straight-laced, no-nonsense nine to fiver.

Then there’s “crazy Jane”. Crazy Jane tries to teach her cat how to curtsy (she *almost* has it). She has an inexplicable fear of foam and waltzes with herself. She likes to not stalk her neighbours with binoculars and pretend she’s a French mime artist. She also loves wrestling and tequila (in that order). Sometimes, she likes to drive slowly beside random joggers she’s never met while playing Eye of the Tiger. She also likes to frequent karaoke bars where she can rap California Love in its entirety.

So yes, I’m weird. But I’m not always weird. I could come on here and be normal but then you guys wouldn’t be (hopefully) laughing at with me.

In case you guys are wondering, crazy Jane mostly lives in a cage while professional Jane is at work. I let her out in the evening, where she likes to dance to Abba and blog. Crazy Jane sure loves to blog. She also loves talking to all her fellow weirdos and sending them virtual cake. She is uncomfortable with referring to herself in the third person so she’s going to stop now and knit some tea cosies even though she doesn’t have a tea pot. Sinister.

Why I am Not Proud to be Irish Today 

Today, March 17, is St. Patrick’s Day; a day where Irish culture and heritage is celebrated in countries all around the world. Here in Ireland, we use it as a day to celebrate and explore our own relationship with our country. We partake in parades and wear shamrocks, a traditional symbol of Irish-ness and our relationship with Saint Patrick. We drink excessive amounts of alcohol, celebrate into the wee hours of the morning with our friends and regret our over-indulgence the following day. In recent years, I have found myself dancing in bars adorned with tricolour flags to traditional Irish music and drinking bad Guinness. But not this year. This year I don’t feel like celebrating. I don’t feel like drunkenly acquiescing with strangers that we do indeed have “a grand little country”. This year, when I think of our history and our relationship with Christianity (which, in essence, is what Saint Patrick’s is at least supposed to be about), I don’t feel a surging sense of pride. 
I feel shame and disgust. 

Our country has had a tortured and somewhat masochistic relationship with Catholicism. In the twentieth century, this relationship with the Catholic Church seemed to be at its zenith. Our most famous Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and later president, Éamon de Valera enshrined the ‘special position’ of the Catholic Church in our country’s constitution. In 1932, the 31st International Eucharistic Congress of the Catholic Church was held in Dublin and attracted hundreds of thousands of spectators. It is estimated that 25% of the country’s population attended a mass held in Dublin that day. This was truly the apex of the Church’s influence over both culture and politics. Church doctrine seeped its way into all aspects of Irish life. Our schools and hospitals maintained their intrinsic link with the Church. The twentieth century was when the marriage between church and state was really cemented. 

This influence wasn’t just evident in the political sphere, however. The people of Ireland aimed to live their lives according to what they were taught at school and mass by nuns, brothers and priests. An odious sense of piety and sanctimony permeated many societal groups. Sexuality morality among all people was something that bishops and nuns obsessed over. There was, as our current Taoiseach Enda Kenny notes, ‘a morbid fascination with respectability.’ 

Contraception was illegal in Ireland between 1935 and 1980 and families, despite widespread poverty, grew large in keeping with traditional Catholic teachings. Sex outside marriage was considered inherently sinful, however. Of course, it still happened and with contraception not being widely available, many women found themselves in the worst possible situation in a repressive, judgemental and unforgiving society. These women were treated as little better than criminals; shunned by their communities and often sent to Magdalene asylums and so-called “mother and baby homes”. Here, they gave birth to their babies, who were subsequently taken away from them, and often never seen again. In the Magdalene asylums, women were worked like virtual slaves to atone for their grievous sins. 

One such mother and baby home was established in Tuam, County Galway by the Bons Secours religious order. Here, unmarried mothers gave birth to their babies, who were then taken from them and raised in a separate part of the Home by the nuns. The children were often later given up for adoption, and often without the consent of their mothers. For their part, the mothers remained in the Home for a year, working unpaid hours to reimburse the nuns for their “services”. 

Tragically, that isn’t the most infuriating or heartbreaking part of the Home’s sadistic history. It was well-known in the local community that there was an undisclosed number of foetal remains close to the site of The Home, which had been abolished in 1972. It was unclear to many, however, just what a gut-wrenching and shameful story lay behind these remains. Thanks to the tireless work of local historian Catherine Corless, however, the story is public. And now, it cannot be silenced. 

Corless discovered that throughout the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s that 796 babies and young children died at the Home.

796

Although infant mortality rates nationwide were indeed higher in the mid-twentieth century than they are today, this number is still considered abnormally high. The infants’ death certificates stated various medical reasons for their deaths, including tuberculosis, measles, whooping cough and influenza. One thing is evident: these children were not treated like human beings. They were treated as they were perceived: as a remnant of their mother’s sin and sexual immorality. And for that, they were punished. 

The nuns left these children in unmarked mass graves. The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes recently found that the remains were discovered in structure that seems to be “related to the treatment/containment of sewerage  and/or wastewater.” These babies were left to rot in a mass grave, buried without dignity or humanity. 

So today, I don’t celebrate. I don’t feel an overwhelming sense of pride in my nationality. I feel a measure of pride in the sense that justice is finally being sought for these babies, who were never before given a voice. I feel proud of the inimitable Catherine Corless, the woman who never gave up fighting for the defenceless. But I don’t feel proud of my country’s insidious past. I won’t wave a tricolour or drink a pint because I don’t feel like it. I am frankly too disillusioned, too ashamed and too heartbroken. Instead, I will think of the 796 babies lying in the cold ground in County Galway. Babies like Anne Heneghen, who died in 1954 aged 3 months. Or Dermot Gavin who died in 1956, aged 2 weeks. Or Baby Lyons, who died in 1949, aged 5 days. Or Kathleen Murray who died in 1947 aged 3 years. I could go on, but it would take some time. I ask that those of you who read this to please look at this full list of their names. They were invisible while they lived, forgotten and neglected by a society that deemed them an inconvenient truth. 

We cannot and will not ignore them now. 

Anxiety and Me 

Hi everyone! 

Well, it’s been a while. As usual. It’s been a little crazy for me lately…well crazier than usual, anyway. 

So back in December I was diagnosed with a generalised anxiety disorder and put on Zoloft (and xanax to help me sleep). I have been through some rough patches in my life but I have never, ever felt so low. I thought I knew what anxiety was but nope, not until it hit me full force in the face like a wet fish. 

I had to take time off work. I felt alone and helpless. It led to huge strains with my family and with my boyfriend. I never knew what it would feel like to not want to get out of bed, nevermind leave the house. I never knew just how miserable a person could feel; how panicked and how vulnerable. 

The road to recovery will be long and difficult. Maybe I will never fully recover, but I can learn to live with this. I certainly am feeling much better and am able to do many more things now than I could have last month. My boyfriend has been wonderful, my family has been supportive and I’ve had a close friend be there when I needed her. She was also diagnosed with a GAD and we’ve been able to support each other. I think I’ve taken her for granted in the past. It’s only when you hit rock bottom that you really appreciate the genuine friends who don’t hesitate to make you a priority. I hope she feels the same about my friendship. 

The past few weeks have been much better. The first of the month was the one year anniversary of my aunt’s death from cancer. I spent the day with my family and just knowing how close our bond is made me feel really special. So too did the numerous messages from close friends and colleagues who remembered her anniversary. It really was as good a feeling as any pill. Sometimes people really surprise me with how thoughtful they can be. 

So guys, I’m doing well. Really well, in fact. I’m working part-time again and I love my job. I’m taking much better care of my health by exercising and eating well. I’m writing a lot and learning to love my own company. I’m laughing again and playing with my nieces and nephew. I’m running through fields with my dogs (LOL at that mental image) and bopping my cat on the head with her toys. All in all, life is good right now. There will be a time when I’ll struggle again, but I’ll be okay. I will always end up okay.

Who wouldn’t be when they’ve got unicorn slippers? I repeat, UNICORN SLIPPERS 🦄🦄


I hope all of you have been doing well, and if not then feel free to tell me about it. It’s always good to talk, right? Now let’s all have tea and freak out over how adorable my slippers are. 

Makes Sense 

I feel happy. And pretty carefree. Probably because I just had tea and a biscuit which usually results in a sugar-induced euphoria. Anyways, I hope you guys are having a wonderful Monday (I’m sure it’s possible) and I’m going to spin in a circle with my hand extended so everyone gets a high-five. Here’s my thought of the day: 

When the plan goes to pot

My life plan was pretty generic: get married by thirty, have some kids, secure a good job, buy a house, avoid violently murdering someone in the supermarket just because they skipped the queue…you know, standard stuff. Somewhere along the way, the plan went to s**t. I woke up one morning, at the ripe old age of twenty nine and realised I had done none of those things. 
                                                      

I know what you’re thinking: what kind of uptight loser has a life plan? So, okay, firstly, it wasn’t exactly a plan. More of a… life map. Wait, wait… that’s worse, isn’t it? Basically, I just had some things that I wanted to have achieved or realised before I hit a certain age. It wasn’t like I made exact goals to be achieved by exact dates…I’m not that obsessive *nervous laugh* 

                                                      

My team and I just planning what I’ll eat for brunch tomorrow


I felt that being married with maybe at least one kid and having some kind of steady income by the age of thirty seemed to be a realistic enough goal, right? I imagine a conversation with seventeen year old Jane to be a little something like this: 

Seventeen Year Old Jane: Woah, it’s me!

Current Jane: Yes, yes, you decide to ditch the bleach bottle and thick eyebrows are a thing now, soooo…

Seventeen Year Old Jane: Hey, I’m making it work. If it’s good enough for Gwen Stefani…anyway, how am I? 

Current Jane: You know, cool. Yeah, pretty cool.

Seventeen Year Old Jane: So I’m married then? To Jack right? He’s sooo dreamy.

Current Jane: Erm, no. No, you’re not. You’re engaged though. And he’s dreamy alright…but he does this thing with his nose when he’s sleeping and I swear to GOD itmakesmewannapunchhimsoharrrrd. 

Seventeen Year Old Jane: Eh…not married. Okay…okay…but, you’re… you’re pregnant right? 

Current Jane: Eh, no. That’s last night’s takeaway pizza but thanks for reminding me I’m not a size 8 anymore. Nope. No kid. Nada. Notta one. 

Seventeen Year Old Jane: Okay…okay…that’s not so bad… you own a house though? A house? Right?

Current Jane: Well, I don’t own it in so much as I…rent…it. So yeah, I rent. Still. But you know, it’s cool. I can totally do what I want with the place. I have a pretty bitchin’ collection of owl ornaments and seashells. You like seashells, right? 

Seventeen Year Old Jane: Uh huh. Seashells. Right. Erm, so a job? You…have…a job?

Current Jane: Oh yeah, totally, yeah. I’m a teacher.

Seventeen Year Old Jane: Wow! Really? That’s great. Okay that’s really reassuring. Okay. So you have a permanent teaching job. Woah, for a second there I was kinda freaking out.

Current Jane: Well, you know, permanent in the sense that my contract ends in like…four weeks. Permanent like a bottle of hair dye, amiright? Hello? Past Jane? 

Seventeen Year Old Jane: *hyoerventilating into a brown paper bag* 

So yeah, past Jane probably wouldn’t be too impressed with a snapshot of current Jane’s life. On paper, I guess it looks like I haven’t got much going on. The thing is, Seventeen Year Old Jane didn’t know much about life, and also believed that thirty was, like, really old. She also had very dodgy hair extensions, so I really wouldn’t listen to her anyway. 

                                                                

Seventeen Year Old Me be like “It’s called fashion, look it up, bitches”


I had assumed that I would have life all figured out by now. I also assumed that I would just magically become incredibly wise and responsible , like this guy 

                                                     

Except with marginally better posture and hair…


I never really gave any consideration to the fact that I would actually be the same goddamn person. You know, the person who’s sometimes lazy, sucks at long term planning and likes kids but also likes butternut squash…it doesn’t mean I want to commit to eating it everyday for the next eighteen years. I wasn’t going to suddenly transform into a kale-eating, stepford wife supermom. 

Right now, I am a little directionless. I’ll get married in the next few years. Maybe I’ll even have kids. I’ll probably get a proper contract in a more secure job too. Or, I’ll join the circus, grow a beard and kiss sexually-confused men for five bucks a pop. Whatever happens, I don’t need to obsess over it. Life has a habit of happening even when you’re not thinking about it. 

That’s my wish going into my thirties: (notice my avoidance of the word plan…*aggressive cat hiss*) I won’t necessarily plan. I won’t set unrealistic goals. Then, if I don’t achieve them, I won’t feel like flagellating myself with a spiky whip. My goals will probably be a little more shorterm like “get through at least one episode of Supervet without sobbing uncontrollably” or “maybe don’t secretly eat 95% of Jack’s dinner when he goes to the bathroom”. Obviously, big decisions do take some level of planning. But I think the key thing is is to stop setting the bar so high. I can f**k up. I can make stupid mistakes. I can get married in some cramped registry office and it won’t matter because I’ll get to share my life with someone very special. And you know what, if I’m thirty nine and my life is similar to the way it is now (well, minus the anxiety) I’ll be pretty happy. If it’s completely different, well I’ll probably be pretty happy too. The important thing is, I don’t know. I can’t know. And that’s okay. 

And now for a proper catch-up

Sometimes I feel like I complain too much. I feel like when things are going well, it’s hard to say “I feel great and everything is wonderful” without sounding braggadocious. When things are going terribly, it is easy to dwell on it. Sometimes I think it’s easier to complain because maybe it makes a person more relatable. I have always felt the need to externalise my fears. I have to share them, because I dwell on them so much they become just too much for me to deal with on my own. So I talk about them. You know, I say something like “yeah, I’m just a little nervous about work” or “I feel a little let down by that person.” When I can identify my problems, I find them easy to share. I’m okay with that and I think my friends appreciate the honesty. 

But what about when I can’t identify my problems? What about when I should be fine, but I’m just….not. 

I am currently out of work on sick leave. I have no idea what is wrong with me. What I do know is that I have been dizzy and lightheaded. The other day, I stood in front of a class and almost collapsed. I couldn’t breathe properly and my chest was tight. I felt like I was in a nightmare, not really experiencing reality at all. 

I was diagnosed a few days prior to that experience with labyrinthitis. I had bled out of my ear (sorry for the visual) and had been a little unsteady for some time. I had been experiencing dizziness and weakness for weeks. I was out on antibiotics and that was that…

…Or so I thought. It wasn’t my ear that was troubling me really. I mean, sure, I more than likely had an inner ear issue that needed to be fixed. But there was something else. Something I really found difficult to verbalise. I felt completely fuzzy. Like I was trapped in a constant fog. I felt like I was experiencing a dream and that I was out of touch with reality. I told myself that it must be the viral infection playing tricks with my mind. But I felt so off that it was difficult to ignore.

I noticed that the dizzy episodes and the difficulty breathing were only happening in certain classrooms. And never at home, or while driving or when comfortable. Always when I really, really didn’t want them to. 

My usual doctor believes that I’m probably allergic to penicillin since I reacted especially badly the other day. But deep down, I know something else…something I’ve held from her and from myself: 

I am having panic attacks.

I’ll admit; I knew next to nothing about them. I thought that to experience them you had to be especially or noticeably stressed. You would presumably have some knowledge that they were about to happen, right? You could control it surely? 

Well, no. No you definitely couldn’t. And you might not even be fully aware of your stress. On the surface, everything might appear perfect. I know that I felt fine; happy even. But I wasn’t and I’m not. 

And how the hell did I arrive at the conclusion that I’m having panic attacks anyway? Well, through a process of elimination. Besides the labyrinthitis, there’s nothing else physically wrong with me, except for chest tightness and breathlessness. After a careful medical examination, any heart issues were ruled out. My GP was a little confused, naturally. How could I be having such extreme symptoms with so little physical evidence of a major problem? As much as I like my GP, I had to seek a second opinion. “Waiting it out” didn’t seem the most viable or attractive option when at least once a day, I felt like I was suffocating and choking. 

My second GP barely needed to ask me how I felt before she knew. She took a look at my chart. When I had an “attack” I experienced these symptoms: chest tightness and pain, feeling of choking and throat swelling, neck ache, tingling and pins and needles, hot flashes but also shivers, derealisation, dizziness and lightheadedness, and a general feeling of weakness, like I would collapse if I didn’t sit down. It almost exclusively happened when I was being really focused on, like in class or during a conversation with someone I wasn’t overly comfortable with. The worst thing of all is I can never, ever predict them. They literally come out of nowhere and completely overwhelm me.

Even though I was sick, GP2 (what a lovely name, I’m sure it’s French) was sure it was anxiety attacks. The thing is, she can’t really tell whether they are being caused by the labyrinthitis or not. They have certainly been exacerbated by the antibiotics. I guess I had a kind of psychological allergic reaction to them, if there is such a thing. She feels that maybe I am excessively stressed because I don’t want to appear ill in front of my students, and the pressure to be okay is actually causing panic attacks. So I have had almost a week off work, which feels like forever. I am still very foggy and unwell and prone to anxiety. I am trying my best to self-talk my way through it but I would really appreciate advice from anyone who goes through anything similar. 

Anyway, my bloods have been done so I’m waiting on those. And I’m going to take a few days to decide whether I feel the need for medication. The rest is doing me some bit of good but I am alone for large portions of the day and that is just no fun. 

So, woah, Negative Nellie is out in force today. But I feel at least here I can try and make sense of whatever the hell is happening to me. I can make sense of who I am. Or who I’m not, I don’t know. 

For now, I am doing okay. I’m not in any imminent danger and I am surrounded by wonderfully supportive family and friends. I feel the need to remind myself of that quite often. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, the fog will lift and I will see clearly again. For now, I must get used to seeing in the dark. 

So my last post disappeared…

…except for the picture of the cats and if you guys know me then you probably didn’t even question how weird that was. I had written a whole post about uncertainty in my life and it was…actually it was pretty damn depressing in hindsight so maybe WordPress inadvertently saved me from being a gigantic Negative Nellie. Instead I shall be positive: I am moderately healthy (I had explained in the now-lost-in-cyber-space-blog-post). I am still teaching, although I’m out on sick leave. I still do Wednesday night Zumba with my cat…. so all in all, I’m good. 

I want to try and dedicate more time to my blog. It has been neglected as of late and I have really missed it. I’ve missed chatting to you guys and reading about your lives and stalking you and your pets…did I write that last part out loud? Erm, here’s some free internet pie to distract you….gooood. 

I am still in a relationship, we live in a nice little cottage together with our two dogs and our surprisingly flexible cat. I teach in a convent school (although my contract ends next month). My health has been a bit of an issue, but there’s nothing major wrong with me…apart from the weirdness but well, you know. 

I’m probably a little more boring now in that I try to avoid alcohol (because, lets face it, racing down a hill in a shopping trolley can only really end one way) and my life is pretty much consumed by work. Jack is still slaving away at his PhD but he is also working a job that he genuinely loves and that makes us both very happy. 

Erm…I can’t think of literally a single interesting thing that has happened to me recently except my stapler broke and I managed to fix it all by myself but then I dropped it so I had to buy a new one. FML, amiright?! 

Anyway, I am really going to try and post more regularly for anyone who still remembers me and for any new people who may have stumbled upon this, come say hello. I don’t bite, unless you happen to be made of chocolate and or bacon. Then all etiquette goes out the window. 

I love Sagan 

Every time I feel a little bit stressed, or I’m having one of my many existential crises, I read (or even better, I listen to) Carl Sagan. His way of looking at our world and the universe was wonderful, quite literally. Here are some of my favourite Saganisms: 


These are all from the Saganism page on Facebook. Hope you enjoyed!

P.S. I am also now on Instagram because I’m nothing if unoriginal. See you over there perhaps? 

My Instagram